Mumbai :The board of ICICI Bank Ltd., which less than two weeks earlier expressed full faith in chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar, is divided over whether to ask her to step down as federal authorities investigate allegations of impropriety over loans made to Videocon group, people with knowledge of the matter said.
At least some outside directors are opposed to Kochhar continuing in her role, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is not public. The board of India’s second-largest private sector bank may meet as early as this week to consider its next course of action, the people said. Kochhar’s current tenure as CEO is set to end on March 31, 2019.
ICICI’s board, which consists of 12 members, reviewed credit approval processes and found them to be robust, according to a March 28 filing. The board headed by chairman M. K. Sharma said there was “no question” of any quid pro quo, nepotism or conflict of interest and expressed “full faith and confidence” in Kochhar, according to the filing.
There are six independent directors on the ICICI board, including the bank’s chairman as well as the head of state-owned Life Insurance Corp. of India, which owns about a 9.4% stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The board also includes a government nominee and five executive directors from ICICI.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently started a so-called preliminary enquiry into an alleged nexus between Videocon Chairman Venugopal Dhoot and Kochhar’s husband, according to officials from the agency. A preliminary enquiry is the first step to assess allegations of wrongdoing.
“Your information is totally baseless and incorrect,” an ICICI spokesman said in an email when asked if some board members want Kochhar to step down.
ICICI shares were down 0.86% at 10.41 am on Monday, set for the biggest drop in a week, after earlier declining as much as 2.2%. The broader Bankex index of Indian lenders rose 0.5%. ICICI has been the worst performer among private-sector peers on the 10-member gauge since May 2009, when Kochhar took over as CEO, and has a bad-loan ratio that’s one of the highest among its peers. Kochhar is on the bank’s credit committee that approves loans and reviews key borrower accounts.
“If the CEO has to step down, the shares might see a knee-jerk fall and then recover from there on,” said Gaurang Shah, head investment strategist at Geojit Financial Services Ltd. in Mumbai. “Allegations are regarding transactions which have happened in the past and the market has already priced in most of the risks that could come from it.”
Bloomberg News couldn’t reach Deepak Kochhar, Chanda’s husband, for comment through phone calls made to NuPower Renewables, where he is CEO and founder. Dhoot has denied any wrongdoing.
Growth likely to reach 7.5% next fiscal: CEA
New Delhi: The economic growth is likely to accelerate to 7.5 percent in 2019-20, from 7.2 percent projected for the current fiscal, Chief Economic Adviser K V Subramanian has said.
“We have done the projections. All the external agencies and internally our estimates are also 7.5 percent (2019-20). The nominal rate we are expecting is 11.5 percent and inflation of about 4 percent,” he told PTI.
The Reserve Bank of India, in its latest monetary policy review released last week, too projected an economic growth rate of 7.4 percent for the next fiscal.
Talking about average growth in the last four years, he said the GDP growth rate has been 7.3 percent, highest across all government since liberalisation. This growth rate has been achieved amidst very low inflation.
Prior to 2014, the average inflation was in excess of 10 percent, he said, adding the significant reduction in inflation can be attributed to setting up of Monetary Policy framework that mandates the RBI to keep it within a particular band.
Monetary Policy Committee, the interest rate setting body headed by the RBI Governor, has been given objective of achieving the medium-term target for consumer price index (CPI) inflation of 4 percent within a band of +/- 2 percent, while supporting growth.
Earlier this month, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in the Budget Speech had said that India is solidly back on track and marching towards growth and prosperity.
The past five years have seen India being universally recognised as a bright spot of the global economy, he said, adding that the country witnessed its best phase of macro-economic stability during this period.
“We are the fastest growing major economy in the world with an annual average GDP growth during last five years higher than the growth achieved by any government since economic reforms began in 1991,” he had said.
On fiscal deficit, Subramanian said, it has been secularly coming down and India is on the glide path to achieving the target set under the FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management) Act.
“This fiscal prudence has been achieved despite greater devolution to states. So as part to 14th Finance Commission, 42 percent is devolved to states from earlier 32 percent,” he said.
The Budget pegs fiscal deficit to be at 3.4 percent of the GDP for 2019-20.
Jet Airways plans to raise about Rs 2,500 crore through rights issue
Mumbai: Cash-starved Jet Airways plans to raise about Rs 2,500 crore through a rights issue. Its lenders are also looking at a debt-to-equity conversion.
While lenders may convert Rs 1,000 crore of debt into equity, they will also participate in the equity infusion through a rights issue as part of the deal.
Additionally, promoter Naresh Goyal and Etihad Airways, which owns a 24 per cent stake in the airline, will infuse around Rs 2,000 crore into the airline, sources aware of the development said.
Lenders are expected to participate in a rights issue to raise capital. Government-owned infrastructure fund National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF) is likely to buy a 19 per cent stake for Rs 1,500 crore. Along with the NIIF, banks will own a 51 per cent stake in the company.
The NIIF was approached by lenders after Etihad Airways refused to increase its stake beyond 25 per cent without an exemption from open offer. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) did not agree to the idea. NIIF Chief Executive Officer Sujoy Bose did not respond to multiple queries about the matter.
Sources said Etihad Airways would infuse around Rs 1,450 crore to maintain its stake at 24 per cent, promoter Naresh Goyal would bring in Rs 550 crore to hold around 21 to 22 per cent.
Goyal has already infused Rs 250 crore into the airline.
“At the first stage of the resolution plan, lenders have agreed to convert around Rs 1,000 crore of debt into equity. In the second stage, there will be a rights issue of around Rs 2,500 crore in which banks will participate. This process is subject to approval from the promoter, lenders and Etihad Airways. It may take around two months to close,” said an official of a state-owned lender.
Another source said the SBI-led consortium would release around Rs 550 crore in the next 15 days to bridge the immediate funding gap.
He said: “The draft resolution plan has been approved by the Jet board and needs approval of the boards of banks and Etihad. Besides, the approval of various regulatory authorities is also required. This would take a few months. There is an interim funding requirement of Rs 500-1,000 crore. Banks will make an assessment and lend the fund against security”.
The airline has a funding gap of Rs 8,500 crore. “There will be equity infusion, sale or sale and leaseback, debt-to-equity conversion, and refinancing of aircraft. A combination of all these will help to reduce the debt of the company. But, I will be unable to give you the numbers right now,” said Amit Agarwal, chief financial officer at Jet Airways.
The company’s board approved a draft resolution plan, which comprises conversion of debt into 110.4 million shares.
Jet had a gross debt of Rs 7,654 crore as of December-end, comprising aircraft loans worth Rs 1,700 crore. About 60 per cent of the loans are dollar denominated. Jet has called an extraordinary general meeting next week to secure shareholders’ nod for the issue of 110.4 million shares to lenders.
RBI threatens action against Yes Bank for disclosing nil divergence report
New Delhi: The Reserve Bank has warned Yes Bank of regulatory action for disclosure of nil divergence report in violation of the confidentiality clause, the private sector lender said.
Yes Bank in a press release earlier this week had said the RBI has not found any divergence in the asset classification and provisioning done by the lender during 2017-18.
In a regulatory filing , Yes Bank said it has received a letter from the RBI which noted that the Risk Assessment Report (RAR) was marked ‘confidential’ and it was expected that no part of the report be divulged except for the information in the form and manner of disclosure prescribed by regulations.
“Therefore, the press release breaches confidentiality and violates regulatory guidelines. Moreover, NIL divergence is not an achievement to be published and is only compliance with the extant Income Recognition and Asset Classification norms,” the RBI said in its letter.
“The issuance of the Press Release has, therefore, been viewed seriously by the RBI and could entail further regulatory action/s,” the letter added.
The RAR also identifies several other lapses and regulatory breaches in various areas of the bank’s functioning and the disclosure of just one part of the RAR is viewed by RBI as a deliberate attempt to mislead the public, the central bank said.
The RBI conducted its first asset quality review (AQR) of banks in 2015 in order to find corporate loan accounts with severe financial weakness which were still classified as standard accounts on the books of the lenders.
Post this review, RBI found a large divergence of Rs 4,176 crore in the reported gross NPAs in the books of Yes Bank for 2015-16.
Further, the RBI judged gross NPAs at Rs 8,373.8 crore for Yes Bank for 2016-17 against the declared gross NPAs of Rs 2,018 crore. Thus, there was a divergence of Rs 6,355 crore or three times the reported amount.